According to a new study, post-traumatic growth helps doctors after they have made a mistake while practicing.
The study was a three-year project published in the journal American Medicine. The project is called the Wisdom in Medicine Study. It was designed to investigate how doctors cope, learn and change after making a medical error.
The study explored whether or not physicians move through the experience of making a harmful error and not only survive but also learn something about themselves that promotes growth.
61 doctors from the United States were interviewed for the project. The participants volunteered for the study and self-reported having made a serious medical error. Participants were asked to tell their story and reveal wheat helped them cope with the experience in a positive way.
The results revealed that the doctors who were considered “wisdom exemplars” described what they have learned and how they had changed from their experiences by looking through a lens of wisdom.
One of the most helpful ways doctors claimed to cope with their error was to talk about it.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the doctors said that at the time of the error, they were unable to talk to anyone either because they were too ashamed or because they were instructed not to by their attorney.
Participants also stressed the importance not having those close to them dismiss the seriousness of the situation or the reality of the mistake to try and make them feel better.
The study also examined disclosure and apology surrounding a doctor’s mistake. The results revealed that disclosure occurred about twice as much in doctors who were “wisdom exemplars” compared to “nonexemplars.”
A majority of doctors in both the “wisdom exemplar” group and the “nonexemplar” group reported that they did not receive any training on how to best approach disclosure following a medical error. Interestingly, the participants reported that disclosure and apology were critical first steps toward the possibility of healing a broken relationship and being able to deal openly with the error.
Ultimately, the study focused on doctors who responded in a positive way to serious errors they made.